Schools Superintendent Dr. Christine Johnson announced last week that the Hoboken Middle School’s new principal will be Dr. Sharon Davis.
Currently, the middle school is adjoining the high school and both are overseen by Hoboken High School Principal Robin Piccapietra. But the district has announced plans to separate the middle school from the high school next fall. Some parents have said they would like the younger kids to be in a separate place from the older ones.
The middle school will occupy the top two floors of the AJ Demarest building located next to Church Square Park on Fourth and Garden streets. It was once the city’s high school, and Frank Sinatra attended briefly before leaving to launch his singing career.
“I am currently working with her to determine an official start date,” wrote Johnson in the district newsletter. “As soon as that is agreed upon, I will announce a meet and greet for all staff, students, and parents.”
According to Johnson, Davis was one of 63 applicants for the position which the district began searching for in January.
Johnson said in an interview last week that Davis “felt like the right fit,” for several reasons including her past employment as vice principal for Dr. Frank Napier Jr. School of Technology in Paterson, and as director for an early childhood center.
“The main reason I think she is going to be a fabulous fit, apart from her qualifications, is the minute the interview process began, she had this sense of energy and positivity but at the same time she is very calm and strong in her manner,” said Johnson. “She is extremely systemic and while we spoke about routine things such as procedures and benchmark schedules she spoke about it matter-of-factly and spoke about the importance of raised expectations of students, a need for opportunities for students, and we spoke about how kids need to feel comfortable with being pushed academically and leadership needs to be fostered naturally.”
Johnson said she was also impressed with Davis’s focus on the importance of students being strong readers and writers.
As for the transformation to the new middle school, “right now we are in the process with meeting with the architect and looking at preliminary drawings,” said Johnson.
Johnson explained that the top two floors need to be retrofitted and reconfigured to accommodate the middle school by including labs, classrooms, a tech media center, an art room, and more.
Johnson said she expects work to begin as soon as school ends and will be completed in time for the first day of school in September.
“I am comfortable and confident we won’t have a problem with construction as all the infrastructure is in place such as the plumbing and electricity and so forth as it already exists,” said Johnson.
Johnson said the district is also looking at program changes including the addition of mandarin to the foreign language program and a new arts program.
Johnson is anticipating anywhere from 200 to 215 students to be enrolled in the middle school next year.
HHS responds to ‘threat,’ but it’s toward a different district
In this week’s newsletter, Johnson also informed district parents of a modified lockdown that took place at the Hoboken High School due to what was taken at first as a threat to the high school via social media.
She said that on the morning of March 21, a student informed Piccapietra of a post from an unknown person, not a student, regarding a planned shooting for Wednesday at “HHS.”
“When something like this occurs, the principals are trained to do a modified lockdown and alert the school resource offers,” wrote Johnson. “The school resource officers and the school assistance counselor investigated the situation and within a few minutes were able to determine that this threat originated from a person not in our area, but due to his/her status on social media is in “famous mode” the HHS was far reaching. This particular situation originated in Virginia and was related to a high school in that state with the initials HHS.”
“I could not be more proud of our students for being diligent and for going to see Principal Piccapietra.” – Dr. Christine Johnson
Johnson said that a modified lockdown “means is that business goes on regularly within the school but we limit anyone from coming into the building and minimize students and staff leaving classrooms, but teaching continues as normal. The entire situation literally took 20 minutes.”
“I could not be more proud of our students for being diligent and for going to see Principal Piccapietra,” added Johnson in the newsletter.
The Hoboken Board of Education approved the 2017-2018 academic calendar this month.
The next school year will run from Sept. 7 until June 20 (barring changes for snow days etc.) The calendar includes six one o’clock dismissals for the entire district, three professional development days for the faculty, and 19 days in which the school is closed including spring break, winter break, holidays, and the annual NJEA teacher’s union convention.
The calendar also states that if there is a fourth snow day, days will be taken from spring break.
Marilyn Baer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.